Ocean City's Flood Hazards

Knowledge of our flood hazards can help you make informed decisions during disasters.

What is flood risk?

The term “flood” is sometimes confusing because it is used to describe a wide range of environmental conditions. In basic terms, a flood is when water either partially or totally covers land that is typically dry. This means that you are experiencing a flood when your storm drain overflows and fills the street during a storm. You’re also experiencing a flood if your house is underwater due to a dam breach.

Flood risk is a measure of how vulnerable you are to flood. You can think of it as the product of flood event probability and total amount of assets potentially exposed to the event. You’ve probably heard people talk about the probability in this equation in terms of 100-year floods or 500-year floods. These terms are sometimes misinterpreted. A lot of people think they mean that one flood happens every 100 or 500 years. So, if you were recently flooded, you wouldn’t experience another one for another 99 or 499 years. In reality, 100-year flood is a flood event that has a 1% chance of happening every year. Similarly, a 500-year flood is one that has a 0.2% chance of happening every year. These are statistical terms that describe likelihood, which means that, while unlikely, you could plausibly experience a 100-year flood two years in a row!

Flood illustration

Local flood hazards

Events that cause flooding are called “flood hazards”. These hazards can be manmade (like a dam failure or levee breach) or they can be natural (like a storm) and are often locally unique. Ocean City is subject to serious flooding conditions from the ocean and the bay waters during hurricanes and other high tide storms. Lesser flooding may occur during lunar high tides and rainstorms.

What is a flood zone?

Flood zones are defined by FEMA and delineated on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). Within these maps, high-risk flood zones are described as part of an area known as a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). The SFHA is what must be regulated through floodplain management in order for our community to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If that’s confusing, think of it like this: the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) is the area of concern for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). All of Ocean City, NJ is within a floodplain, therefore everywhere on the island will flood at some point. Within the SFHA, there are different zones that correspond to different types of hazards. These are called flood zones. There are many different flood zones but the ones that are most common are:

  • X: Areas subject to flooding by the 0.2-percent annual chance flood event. These are considered to be lower risk than A, AE, V, and VE zones and are not included in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)

  • A: Areas subject to inundation by the 1-percent annual chance flood event that don’t have Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) calculated. Sometimes A zones are called “Approximate A” zones.

  • AE: Areas subject to flooding by the 1 percent annual chance flood event that have Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) calculated (the E in AE stands for “elevation”!). Coastal AE zones also exist. These are areas of special flood hazards extending inland to the limit of the 1.5-foot breaking wave.

  • V: Areas along coasts subject to inundation by the 1-percent annual chance flood event with additional hazards associated with storm-induced waves.

  • VE: Areas along coasts subject to flooding by the 1-percent annual chance flood event with additional hazards associated with storm-induced waves. These are different from V zones in that (like AE zones) they have Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) calculated.

In the above list, the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) is referenced often. BFEs are important to floodplain management in that they are often regulatory thresholds for development and building permits. This means that some of the construction in Ocean City are required to be elevated to or above the BFE. If you have questions about this, feel free to contact us.

How do I know if I’m in a flood zone?

If you would like more information about your individual flood risk, and to learn more about your flood zone, you can reference FEMA’s Map Service Center. If you would like further assistance, we’re here to help. You can reach us via our Get Help form.

Detailed flood insurance maps showing the 100-year floodplain in which we are located are on file for your inspection at the City Clerk’s Office (861 Asbury Avenue); Code Enforcement (115 E. 12th St.); and the Ocean City Free Public Library (1735 Simpson Avenue).

Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are also linked below. Information about the flood elevations projected for the 100-year storm may be obtained by calling 609-399-6111 and asking for the Engineering Division or by contacting us via our online form. Site visits are available and financial assistance may also be available. An extensive collection of flood-related materials is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library. In addition, many free publications related to flooding may be obtained.

The City is continually working to improve flood protection on the island. These efforts cannot completely eliminate the chance of flooding but will reduce the frequency and the severity of the flooding.

Current Flood Elevation Maps

Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for Ocean City (effective as of Oct. 5, 2017):

Historic Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs)

Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for Ocean City (12-26-1975 to 9-5-1984)

Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for Ocean City (9-5-1984 to 10-5-2017)

Advisory Base Flood Elevation Maps for Ocean City (12-14-2012 to 6-30-2014)

Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for Ocean City (6-30-2014 to 10-5-2017)

Miscellaneous documents

Have questions?

If you would like to learn more about topics like flood insurance, local flood hazards, or historic floods, we’re here to help. Reach out to speak with your local floodplain expert.

Request Help